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24 Apr 2018

Manchester City: On Raheem Sterling's breakfast

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The not-so-thin veneer of racism

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How did we end up here?

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 Are we content?

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New Media does not equal Old Media

(Photo credit: Biser Todorov)

On Monday morning, a young man woke up, draped himself in a dressing gown that he had bought with his own money, went down into the kitchen of the house that he had bought with his own money with the car that he had bought with his own money sitting on the drive outside it, pulled out a bowl that he had bought with his own money and poured in some granola - bought with his own money - and milk - bought with his own money. And the Daily Mail went wild.

How, they asked, could this individual who had not 24 hours ago failed to win a vocational award have the temerity to wake up the next day and eat his breakfast?

In many respects, the logic is hard to follow. Should we have expected Raheem Sterling not to eat breakfast the morning after the Player of the Year Awards? Did the other losers not eat? Did the winner tuck into a Full English at the Waldorf Astoria? What are the rules about breakfast after losing? Where are they written down?

The not-so-thin veneer of racism

Of course, you don't need me to tell you that the reason why Raheem Sterling is singled out is because of the colour of his skin.

This weekend, the FA were forced to remove a tweet from their official feed which lightly mocked Harry Kane for his ineffectiveness in Tottenham's FA Cup semifinal.

It was, so the logic went, unconstructive and unthinking for an official account like this to punch down to an English striker at a point at which the World Cup is only a couple of months away.

The comparison of Harry Kane's treatment with Raheem Sterling's is instructive. Where was the outcry? Where was the grovelling apology? Is Raheem Sterling not susceptible to the same pressures that inflict Harry Kane? They are, after all, both first-team players for England.

Sterling is, it must be said, familiar with such broadsides from the press. He has been criticised, amongst other things, for buying houses (for his mother, no less), for buying cars, for buying clothes. 

That he should be criticised for buying breakfast on the morning after not winning an award is a new low.

How did we end up here?

There is something more here though.

When the Daily Mail commissioned whichever hapless intern happened to be unlucky enough to be free at that moment in time, there was a whole morass of journalistic thinking behind it.

In a world where we cling to the centre ground politically speaking, it is at the periphery that clicks can be garnered for the various outlets. 

Want to get a piece 'banging'? Write about Paul Pogba but at the periphery. Pick a topic that is controversial - that few people would subscribe to - and then write that piece.

For Paul Pogba, that periphery seems to be his hair.

Of course, we know the term for this: clickbait. The more intriguing the bait, the more guaranteed the click. We know this and yet we still click.

Are we content?

Underlying this debate is a question about how the media functions. Is it the case that the New Media (social media/websites) is threatening the Old Media (newspapers/magazines)?

Where a difference does exist between the two is in the concept of the audience. For a newspaper or a magazine, the audience is comprised of buyers of the magazine - easily aggregated and, undeniably, dwindling in the present world. For the New Media, the audience is somewhat more murky. It is the aggregation of clicks. 

What does this entail though? Not that the clicker was willing to pay money for the content of the article they are accessing. Just that they were interested enough to click. 

Where this becomes problematic is that, for the content provider, the skill becomes simply inducing people into clicking. The actual content of the media becomes unimportant. Everything becomes the inducement. Everything becomes the title.

New Media does not equal Old Media

The shift from Old Media to New Media, then, should not simply be viewed as a matter of course: as an inevitability in which the ease of access means that the New trumps the Old.

What is being lost is the content itself. Whilst there are outlets committed to carefully-construed content out there, these outlets are not in the majority. 

Often, these outlets produce their work in magazine form which comes at a cost, just as the Old Media did. There is a real continuity with these sorts of publication. Time and effort have gone into them, they are tangible, they are collectible.

The New Media, however, can tend towards the opposite of this: ephemerality, unsubstantiality, forgettability. The stories of today quickly line the eDustbins of tomorrow.

The question, therefore, is this: will New Media be able to continue its upward trajectory in the near future? Or will it destroy itself through its very insistence on looking for value in the present?

The moral of the story that Raheem Sterling's breakfast offers us is this: unless we start asking these questions now, it may be too late for us to reclaim this Brave New Media World.

What are your thoughts? Let us know by commenting below.